Compressed air expands

Isothermal compressed air energy storage (ICAES) technology enables a site-anywhere, zero-emissions storage solution. Photo credit: SustainX

Isothermal compressed air energy storage (ICAES) technology enables a site-anywhere, zero-emissions storage solution. Photo credit: SustainX

It looks like compressed air energy storage (CAES) may have come of age as a utility-scale technology, with SustainX pushing the button on its 1.5MW installation in New Hampshire, US, last week. The isothermal plant is the first of its kind to go live, and thus the first bulk-scale CAES project that does not require additional fuel such as natural gas to reheat the compressed air on its release cycle.

Perhaps more importantly, it stores compressed air in pipes, unlike the conventional approach to CAES where the gas is compressed in underground caverns. The system has been designed to last at least 20 years and is sited at the company’s headquarters. It also the first grid-scale CAES system to have been built anywhere in the world since 1991.

With the advent of competing players in the market, such as LightSail Energy, could SustainX be spearheading a technology that has finally come of age? Or is this another false dawn in the quest for the Holy Grail of energy storage? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

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